Lifetime Service Award

Marvin Klemme
Marvin Klemme

MARVIN KLEMME was born December 7, 1900, in Commerce, Missouri; and died August 7, 1992, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His life was devoted to many public service causes, including the proper management of the nation’s public lands. Enlisting in the US Marines for 5 years, he served in Santo Domingo during that country’s revolution and had the distinction of being a part of the Color Guard at the funeral of US President Warren Harding.

He attended the Ranger School at the University of Idaho, earned a B.S. Forestry degree from the University of Washington, and received a master’s degree from Yale. He was a park ranger in Colorado, checked game harvests in Wyoming, and graded and measured harvested logs in eastern Oregon. He was appointed a Forest Ranger with the US Forest Service in Colorado and later selected as one of the first twenty members (No. 7) of the newly formed federal Division of Grazing, in 1935.  In 1938, it became the Grazing Service.  He helped organize grazing districts in the west half of Utah and the Arizona Strip.

In December 1935, he was assigned as the first regional grazier of Oregon and developed Grazing District and grazing unit lines, create user advisory boards, and issued grazing licenses. He worked closely with then Colonel (later Army Chief of Staff) George Marshall, of Vancouver Barracks, to establish ten Civilian Conservation Corps camps for the public lands and the results of their efforts still show today in boundary fences, water developments, and access roads throughout eastern Oregon. His guidance and efforts were reflected for many years in memoranda issued over his name from the Regional Office he established in Burns, Oregon.

He authored “Home Rule on the Range,” in 1984, which tells of the efforts made in those early days of the Grazing Service. He worked to obtaining passage of the federal Pierce Act, authorizing the Service to lease private and state lands, which were intermingled with the federal land, and in the establishment of the Squaw Butte Experiment Station near Burns.

In 1939, he resigned his position, and made a trip around the world, including a Siberian venture, of which he wrote of his observations in “A Grazier Goes Abroad.”  He then re-entered the Marine Corps during World War II as a recruiter. He then began a 15 year career serving overseas as a Foreign Service officer where he helped displaced persons from prison camps in Germany, supervised wood cutters working in those areas, and helped build water catchments near Mt. Olympus in Greece.

He became a world traveler, a financial contributor and 61-year member to the Society of American Foresters, and established scholarships at the Universities, which he attended. He gave his 1000-acre farm to Oklahoma State University, which is known today as the Marvin Klemme Range Research Station.

It has been said of him that, “He was one of the fairest persons ever known.”  “What he told you, you could take to the bank!”  “He loved the land and did everything he could to preserve it.”  “He knew how to ask the right kind of questions and was never known to do anything without thinking it through.”

He was a short man in stature, neatly dressed, and courteous and tall in his manners and bearing. He was instrumental in developing the proper and practical methods of establishing a continuing legacy of management of the public land and its resources at a critical time.

The award was made posthumously at the Foundation’s Annual Meeting in Eugene, Oregon in September, 2003.